People without a caffeine vice can be annoying. After all, who amongst us doesn’t love a good Red Bull or two just before bedtime? Fortunately there are plenty of addicts out there, so I’m a pretty happy fella for the most part. I guess I just don’t really understand decaffeinated reality.
My fix comes in the form of chai (tea) latté. I use chai as a trigger for starting the creative process. It boasts a sizeable jolt of caffeine from the black tea and blends a flavourful bouquet of herbs and spices. A steaming mug throughout Winter, a refreshingly chilled jolt throughout Summer. Liquid gold!
Starbucks be damned
There are two problems with access to a great mug of chai. Prep time and cost. I used to drop an embarrassing amount of money every day to get my Starbucks fix. Then I tired fresh, loose leaf substitutes, but they lacked the punch of the Tazo concentrate used by Starbucks. For the amount I drink, concentrate preserves oodles of prep time and gives way to quick enjoyment. I tried purchasing concentrate in bulk for a time, but it was still foolishly expensive. All of which gave way to the desire to develop my own recipe. For the past several years, I’ve been brewing my own concentrate and it is sinfully good. If you’ve never had the good fortune of sampling a batch, well — sucks to be you.
But don’t go away disappointed. I’m going to share my recipe with you!
Never underestimate the value of fresh ingredients. If you have access to a little India in town, odds are that’s where you’ll find the freshest ingredients and can buy in bulk. Forego vanilla abstract in favour of authentic options from a country like Pakistan, and be sure to get flat cinnamon for its superior flavour advantages over tiny sticks.
You can probably source the remaining ingredients at a larger market (ginger, oranges), but it’s worth noting finding a good honey is well worth the time and effort. Dried goji berries (a Himalayan superfruit) can be found at most healthfood stores or if you’re lucky in a bulk food store.
Recipe (makes 10+ cups)
- 8 cups water
- Ginger (1/3 cup)
- Orange Rind (1/2 of navel orange, “wrinkly/bumpy” seems to work best)
- Cardamom Pods (14)
- Cloves (20)
- Star Anise (6)
- Cinnamon, flat (1 large stick)
- Goji Berries (8)
- Black tea (20 bags)
- Freshly ground pepper (1 tbsp)
- Nutmeg(1/2 tsp)
- Vanilla or vanilla extract (1/2 tbsp)
- Honey (1 tbsp)
- Demerara sugar (1/2 cup)
While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the ginger and orange rind. Try to avoid cutting off the oranges pith (the white skin) as that absorbs rather than flavours, and use only thin slices of the rind. Ground up the fresh peppercorns and add nutmeg (too much is not a good thing), cardamom, star anise (star ani seed), and the goji berries. Break up a 9″ stick of flat cinnamon and add it to the mix. Bring water to a brisk boil and turn off the element but leave the pot on top for warmth. Add the teabags (yes, 20 of them) and all of the above ingredients, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon as the brew steeps for a period of 20 minutes. Too long and you will overpower the delicate balance of flavours, too short and it will be too weak.
Place a tupperware pitcher in the sink as this part can get messy. Use the wooden spoon to prevent the ingredients from falling into the strainer as you drain the pot. Allow the pitcher to sit for about 15 minutes before adding the vanilla, honey and demerara.
Now add 1 part concentrate to 3 parts steamed/boiled/nuked milk and voila! Chai latté excellence.
Try playing around with the ingredients a bit to obtain a palette to your liking. If you do wind up trying it, please share how it turned out by commenting below.
Michael Nourse is the founder of Communicreations, a boutique digital marketing agency helping businesses market themselves on the Internet. He is a multidisciplinary designer with complementary strengths in strategic marketing and web development. Michael has made a career out of brand building and telling people what to do — in a good way! Plus, he brews a mean masala chai. Follow him on Twitter @michaelnourse.